2014 Toyota Corolla SPosted on August 28th, 2013
Newest compact sedan delivers fresh style and new eco technology
By Nina Russin
The eleventh-generation Corolla might be Toyota’s most important vehicle introduction this year. That’s saying something, coming on the heels of an all-new RAV4, Tundra and 4Runner. For 45 years, Corolla has been one of the brand’s pillars, selling more than 10 million units since the sedan’s US introduction in 1968.
Entrenched as it may be in the Toyota family, the Corolla must evolve to keep up in the highly competitive compact segment. Going head-to-head against the stylish Hyundai Elantra, sporty new Dodge Dart and Kia’s newest family of Fortes requires shark-like alacrity and a big dose of charisma.
The newest Corolla that went on sale yesterday features more youthful styling, new range-extending engine technology and the newest generation of Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. There are two four-cylinder engines and three transmissions, including all-new six-speed manual and continuously variable automatic units.
Pricing for the base L grade with a six-speed manual transmission is $16,800 excluding the $810 destination charge. Toyota expects the midgrade LE with the continuously variable automatic transmission and upscale S models to comprise 80 percent of sales volume, priced from $18,300 and $19,000 respectively.
Its conservative styling had become a sticking point for Corolla, especially as concerns the target market of 30-something professionals. A new piano black grille framed by large LED headlamps gives the 2014 models more presence in a crowd. Although product planners didn’t make the connection, there seems to be an affinity to the spindle grille that has become the new face of Lexus.
The newest Corolla is longer, wider and sits slightly lower than the outgoing model. The 2014 model runs on a 3.9-inch longer wheelbase, which makes a significant difference in rear legroom. I was comfortable sitting in the middle second-row position.
A wider track gives the car a more planted appearance and enhances stability when cornering. Wrap-around tail lamps and a rear deck-lid spoiler on the S model complete the redesign.
Valvematic engine technology stretches gas mileage
A new technology on the 140-horsepower LE ECO model engine reduces internal pumping losses to boost power and extend fuel economy. The system shifts control of airflow through the engine from the throttle valve to the intake valves when engine load is light.
Not only does the system extend highway fuel economy to 42 mpg, it also gives the driver quicker throttle response for better performance.
Test drive in San Diego
I had the opportunity to drive the sporty Corolla S on a route that included some surface streets near the San Diego harbor before heading east on the freeway into the canyons. The test car came with the 132-horsepower four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing and six-speed manual gearbox. In addition to evaluating the new powertrain’s performance, I was curious to see how well the MacPherson front and torsion beam rear suspension handled some of the pitchy hills and decreasing radius turns along the way.
Corolla’s reputation is based on its history of reliability and solid construction. While it might not have always been the most exciting entry in the compact segment, it would inevitably outlast most of the competition. The newest model has the rock solid feel that has made the sedan a staple in the US market. The engine is quiet and vibration free, with ample power off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range used on highway entrance ramps.
The manual gearbox has all of the attributes an urbanite would look for in a daily driver: light clutch pedal, crisp shifts, ergonomic shift lever and enough range within the gears for stop-and-go driving. The engine’s sweet spot, 3500-4500 rpm, is easier to maintain when selecting gears manually. During steady state cruising, the driver can pop the gearshift lever into sixth gear and hum along below 2000.
Visibility around the exterior is good. I was able to adjust the driver’s seat for a clear forward view and had no problems monitoring vehicles in adjacent lanes on the highway. A standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the sedan in the center stack screen. Lines superimposed over the image show the car’s trajectory according to steering inputs.
Steering has the soft on-center response characteristic of electric power steering systems, but at no point did I feel disconnected from the wheels. There is plenty of assist at lower speeds for maneuverability. A 35.6-foot turning circle makes it easy to slip the Corolla into tight parking spots on the street.
The MacPherson front suspension does a nice job of settling the chassis in tight corners. Both front and rear axles have stabilizer bars to keep the sedan flat while turning. The solid rear axle didn’t seem to have an impact on ride comfort, but I didn’t get a chance to ride in the second row, nor test the car on a rough road surface.
Four-wheel disc brakes are a good reason to spend the extra money on the S grade, since other models come with rear drums. Not only are drum brakes more difficult to service, they also fill up with water, impacting performance on wet roads. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels on the S are a nice upgrade from steel wheels on the other models.
Redesigned interior features new suite of Entune apps
Designers added horizontal lines in the instrument panel to make the Corolla interior appear more spacious. Thinner driver and front passenger seatbacks expand usable room in the second row. I found the driver’s seat easy to adjust, with ample lower lumbar support for our test drive. Standard cloth seats are attractive and easier to clean than leather for buyers with active lifestyles.
Optional keyless start enables the driver to fire the ignition using a button on the instrument panel.
A standard tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel includes Bluetooth controls to minimize driver distraction. A two-gauge instrument cluster includes a TFT display that shows real-time and average fuel economy, driving range, ambient temperature, elapsed driving time and more.
The newest generation of Entune includes audio functions as well as the apps that function using the driver’s smart phone. Toyota has added Facebook to the list of apps. MovieTickets, Bing, Pandora, OpenTable and iHeart Radio are also on the menu.
Rear seats fold flat to extend the Corolla’s cargo floor. A bicycle wouldn’t fit, but skis, snowboards and golf clubs will.
The 2014 Toyota Corolla comes with front, side, side curtain, driver’s knee and passenger seat cushion airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and brake override.
Standard Toyota Care includes complimentary maintenance for the first two years or ownership or 25,000 miles as well as 24-hour roadside assistance.
Like: The newest Corolla combines Toyota’s rock-solid engineering with a sexier exterior and the latest Enform infotainment technology.
Dislike: Rear drum brakes on all models except the S.
Model: Corolla S Plus
Base price: $21,300
As tested: $21,695
Horsepower: 132 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 128 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 28/37 mpg city/highway2014, Best Value 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota
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